Culture and isolation of melanoma-initiating cells

Barbara Stecca, Roberta Santini, Silvia Pandolfi, Junia Y Penachioni
Current Protocols in Stem Cell Biology 2013, : Unit 3.6
Melanoma is the most aggressive skin cancer. This unit illustrates protocols for culture and isolation of human melanoma cancer stem cells/tumor-initiating cells (CSC/TIC). We describe two complementary methods to enrich for melanoma CSC/TIC. The first approach exploits the ability of CSC/TIC to grow as tumor spheres in low-adherent culture conditions, as previously shown for neural stem cells and human embryonic stem cells. As a second approach, melanoma CSC/TIC are enriched by fluorescence-activated cell sorting for the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzyme activity. We previously showed that melanoma cells with high ALDH activity (ALDH(high)) are endowed with higher self-renewal and tumorigenic abilities than the population with low activity (ALDH(low)), suggesting that ALDH might be a good marker to select for melanoma CSC/TIC. This unit will also describe how to functionally test melanoma CSC/TIC by determining self-renewal in vitro and tumor-forming abilities in vivo using orthotopic xenograft assay.

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